Hallettsville librarian retires after 33 years (video)
July 5, 2012 at 2:05 a.m.
Updated July 6, 2012 at 2:06 a.m.
HALLETTSVILLE - Carol Morisak didn't start out to be a librarian.
But 33 years after taking over the reins at the city-owned Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville, Morisak was feted with a retirement party last week.
Surprised at how many people turned out to wish her well, Morisak reminisced about her time at the library.
"The community has used this library," said the former nurse who became the library's director in 1979. "To see the number of people who use this library has been very rewarding because that's what we are here for.
"If it weren't used as much as it has been, it would have felt like I hadn't done my job."
The library consistently ranks in the top 20 in usage per capita in the state, Morisak said, and two expansion projects in recent years are also an indicator of public popularity.
Housed in a 2,500-square-foot building when she started in 1979, Morisak oversaw the growth of the library into the current, modern 9,000-square-foot facility.
It's not only the structure that has expanded.
"The library has grown, not only in footage, but in services and the people who use it," Morisak said. "I've watched it go from typing up catalog cards to computers and everything being online."
But Morisak doesn't believe technology has ended the need for libraries.
"Readers are always going to come in and read," she said, admitting that some nonfiction topics have been affected by the Internet where people can access the same information from home.
"In spite of that, our annual circulation continues to rise," she said. "Children are always going to read and look at a book. We've gone from the social issues the students used to have to do reports on to putting our money into books that are pretty to look at - cookbooks, gardening, Texas history books, things like that."
Morisak, who has been married to husband Gilbert Morisak for 45 years in August, said she is also encouraged by the influx of teenage readers.
The library has a special section designated for the young adult age group.
"There are so many teenagers who are reading," Morisak said. "It may have started with that vampire series, but finally somebody started writing what they wanted to read."
Morisak came to Hallettsville from New Braunfels after high school to attend nursing school. At the time, the county seat of Lavaca County was home to a training facility for licensed vocational nurses.
Morisak and friend Charlotte Sitka came to Hallettsville together and never left.
"We became LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurse). We married cousins, and we stayed," Morisak said.
Morisak did move to Victoria for a while, working for Dr. Pattie Dodson, but moved back to Hallettsville and went into private duty nursing.
It was her regularity as a consumer of library services that led to her taking over as director.
"I used the library often and when the director had a stroke, the assistant, who had taken over temporarily, kept asking me to apply for the position," Morisak recalled. "I told her, 'I'm a nurse. I don't know the first thing about a library except using one.' But I finally did put in my application and got the job."
That was 1979.
"It was the beginning of a wonderful career. I enjoyed it. I walked to work. It's what I should have gone to school for," Morisak said.
Instead, Morisak, like many other small-town librarians, took a state-offered library management course and continued with education courses.
"That's how I learned to be a librarian," she said.
Morisak has seen her share of changes during her tenure at the library.
"The purpose of libraries in general has changed," she said. "We offer services to children all the way to senior citizens.
"It's where people come for information, from taking courses online to teaching computer classes to senior citizens."
The library now loans out not only books, but also DVDs, audio books and by year's end will likely have e-books available, Morisak said.
"If we can't get someone the information, if we can't help them, we find a source for them. No one leaves here without knowing where to go or what to do. I feel like that's important," she said.
Brenda Lincke-Fisseler, who has taken over as the library's director, has spent 22 years working alongside Morisak and likes to think the retired librarian's work ethic rubbed off on her.
"I learned from Carol that libraries have to evolve," Lincke-Fisseler said. "The library is certainly not the same today as it was 33 years ago when Carol started or 22 years ago when I started.
"Carol was always open-minded about change. You can tell. We've had wonderful community support. We've added on to this library twice.
"That's indicative of her leadership. I don't think we would have had the community support that we did if people didn't think she was steering the ship in the right direction.
"I hope I can follow in her footsteps and do as good a job as she's done not only for the staff, but for the patrons and for the community."
Morisak said the most rewarding aspect of her 33 years leading the Hallettsville library was the people she met.
"I enjoyed being in touch with a wide variety of people," she said. "Helping them, the nurse always came out in me. It was just automatic to get up and help them find the right book or find the right street in town."
Morisak said her co-workers, too, made the job worthwhile.
"All of our employees and co-workers have always gotten along very well," she said. "The atmosphere has always been congenial and warm. It's a very pleasant place to work."
Being at the same place for parts of four decades, Morisak has seen families evolve.
"I have seen babies come in with their babies. It made me realize how long I'd been here," she said. "There are families whose children's children are using the library. I get close to a lot of families."
As for retirement plans, Morisak's future is simple.
"I am going to do anything I want to do, when I want to do it. And I'm going to enjoy it."